The high-flying, versatile Smuin Ballet has put together a rousing evening to elevate the spirits. Somewhere on high, founder Michael Smuin must be smiling.
The dancers run the stylistic gamut from modern ballet to Broadway show dance, as adept at one as the other. Credit Artistic Director Celia Fushille, herself a former dancer under Smuin, for shaping a prime ensemble, then assembling a program resplendent in prime-color contrasts.
The most daring piece is Annabelle L. Ochoa’s mystical “Requiem for a Rose.” A fluid modern-ballet group diverges from the maddened Rose (played ghoulishly by Erica Felsch), a figure with a waterfall of tresses, as angular as some pharaonic Egyptian performer. This Rose clearly does not dig ballet, nor dancers, nor much of anything else surrounding her.
The Rose solo is unsettling to the core. The Rose zombie quivers to its own muse while resonating to pulsing electronic sounds. By putting the ensemble in bright red skirts, Ochoa can also achieve magnified rose effects from their multi-petaled coming together, to the somber Adagio of Schubert’s C Major Quintet.
It takes a brave choreographer like Garrett Ammon to tackle a legendary ballet score like the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, in light of the Balanchine classic now more than 80 years old. This “Serenade for Strings” is capricious, a set of joyous dances by couples doing ballet steps, but unfortunately without the toe shoes that give ballet such a unique cachet. Ammon serves up whimsy, kittenish games, flirtations and jetees galore. Bodies embrace the floor, and at times erotic suggestions appear. Overall it’s a playful mood, with women lifted up to the rafters. The entire ensemble looks supremely well drilled.
Michael Smuin’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” to songs by Sinatra, is one of his trademark Broadway confections, catchy as can be. Emerging from the corps for a spin with Robert Kretz was the immensely expressive and seemingly indestructible Erin Yarborough-Powell, who had joined the company 14 years ago.
Recorded music was featured by this versatile S.F.-based chamber company, now in its 24th year.
Smuin Contemporary American Ballet repeats this program through Oct. 7 at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon, San Francisco. For Smuin info: (415) 912-1899 or go online.